Delta Kappa Epsilon
PANORAMA OF DKE
Duncan Andrews, Rho ’57
“..the Union of stout hearts and kindred interests to secure to
merit its due reward,” Saturday, June 22, 1844: 15 Yale
sophomores, rejecting the status quo meet and form a new junior society
they call Delta Kappa Epsilon. More fraternal than its rival societies,
DKE recruits men who combine “in equal proportions the gentleman, the
scholar, and the jolly good fellow”
“...the red hot spot to
cast your lot is with old DKE,” and although such was not the
original objective, and the very moderate fee of $1.50 soon escalates, the
Fraternity begins to take roof along the Eastern Seaboard and, thanks to
the penchant of Southern planters to send their sons to Yale, throughout
the South. Before the decade is out, 18 charters will have been granted by
These are great days of fraternity expansion, for DKE and others, despite
public antipathy toward secret organizations and the often active
opposition of college faculties. In 1852, DKE moves west across the
Alleghenies, to Ohio, and the campuses of Miami and Kenyon. Two years
later, Lambda will build the first fraternity lodge in America. There are
setbacks, to be sure: Zeta, Princeton, falters, then dies in 1857; Psi,
Alabama, a leader in building the Southern network, succumbs in ’56, not
to arise until 1884. But by and large things look good; colonization, not
capitulation, is the order of the day.
“Slap. bang! here we are again. here we are again, here we are
again...” There are conventions, now, oh boy are there
conventions: 1846, 1852, 1853, 1855. 1856... the first alumni directory
appears in 1851, the first songbook, 1857. The obligations of the chapters
are defined, the financial organization of the Fraternity is established.
Even the proposal of a magazine is raised, although it will not be
implemented until 1883. DKE is growing from adolescence under Mother Phi
to independent manhood -- a manhood that will soon be tested in the
cauldron of civil war.
“In fair and stormy weather/Brothers ever friends at heart/Though
bound by bonds of love must/From thine alter sadly part...” It
is 1861. The Chapter Roll stands at 33, and Phi is putting the finishing
touches on the first “tomb” to be erected by any college fraternity.
The previous December, the DKE Convention in New York unanimously voted to
hold the 1862 Convention “with some Southern chapter of the
Fraternity,” but such is not to be. War erupts, and the first Union
officer killed (and, so far as records show, the first soldier on either
side to give his life) is Theodore Winthrop of Phi. Four years of agony
later, it will be a Princeton Deke, Philip Spence, who is the last
Confederate commander to surrender, six weeks after Appomattox.
Except for Eta, Virginia, DKE’s Southern chapters close: many forever,
their colleges destroyed. Of some 2,500 living Dekes, 1,542 will fight for
their side—162 more than the next two fraternities combined. No chapter,
North or South, is left unscarred; yet, amid the devastation of the
battlefield, the Brotherhood lives on.
Except for the chartering of Theta Zeta, California, in 1876—evidence of
the Fraternity’s desire to become truly national—Reconstruction brings
a pause to the growth of DKE. Struggling to rebuild its surviving
chapters, the Fraternity withdraws from the expansion of the antebellum
years, and focuses on its internal operations and the construction of a
centralized governing body. By 1881, when Brother Rutherford B. Hayes
enters the White House, the first fraternity man to become President, the
machinery is in place, and DKE has further gained by the establishment of
numerous alumni groups across the country. The Rampant Lion is beginning
In 1883, the first issue of The Deke Quarterly appears; in 1885 the
DKE Club of New York is born. In 1884 the DKE Council is incorporated
under the laws of the State of New York; centralized government is
working, although DKE is not yet moving to expand. Between 1876 and 1890
only two chapters are added and in the latter year, while Sigma Tau, MIT,
is installed, the Alpha, Harvard, chapter is dropped from the roll despite
such alumni as Henry Cabot Lodge, J. P. Morgan and William Randolph
Hearst. In 1898, however, things pick up: DKE becomes international with
the chartering of Alpha Phi, Toronto, and by the turn of the century the
chapter roll is up to 40.
“Shame on Spain, you went and sunk the Maine/There’ll be a hot time
in the old town tonight” The Spanish-American War— “Mr.
Hearst’s War” as it is sometimes called—brings Dekes again to the
colors. The first American officer to lose his life during the war is a
Rutgers Deke, Surgeon John B. Gibbs, and a Troy State Deke, J. Frank
newly appointed U.S. Consul General at Havana, never makes it to his post when the
battleship Maine goes under. As the short war draws to an end, the
assistant secretary of the Navy, now on active duty with a volunteer
cavalry group, charges up Cuba’s San Juan Hill and shortly thereafter
into the Governorship of New York, and the Vice Presidency. In 1901
McKinley’s assassination puts DKE’s second President, Theodore
Roosevelt, Alpha, in the White House.
"Some kind of men make none at all/That’s not the kind for
me/Takes a slick man, a damn fine man/To make jolly old DKE.” It is
about this time that a damn fine man who had made DKE at Bowdoin in 1877
achieves a cherished goal: on April 6, 1909, in cold so intense that a
flask of brandy carried under his parka freezes solid, Admiral Robert E.
Peary discovers the North Pole. Afterward, in New York, over 600 Dekes
hail him at a tumultuous banquet (decorations by the American Museum of
Natural History) at which he displays the DKE flag he took with him to the
top of the world. Sixty years later, a DKE flag goes even further:
Astronaut Alan Bean, Omega Chi, Texas ’55 carries it with him to the
surface of the moon!
The Convention of 1910 establishes the first DKE General Secretary, and
"Jimmy" Hawes, Phi ’94 is elected; the following year he
begins the custom of chapter visitations.
A new DKE songbook and directory appear, as does a revised Ritual,
and a Constitution embodying the concept that membership in, and an
obligation to, the Fraternity does not end at graduation but continues
The onset of World War I brings the involvement of the Canadian chapters
Alpha Phi, Toronto, and Tau Alpha, McGill, as well as the participation of
US Dekes, who drive ambulances on the Western Front or join the armies of
France and England. When the United States enters the war, it is a
Dartmouth Deke, Paul G. Osborn ’17, who is the first American to lose
his life at the front.
Dekes have gone to the colors,
our prayers go with them all!
God for our band of brothers who have answered Duty’s call!
our pin has a prouder meaning to you,
brothers, and me,
the stars it bears are shining
the trenches across the sea...”
General Peyton Conway March, Rho, Lafayette ’84 is appointed US Army
Chief of Staff; his son, Peyton, Jr., Rho ’19, will be one of the 155
Dekes who do not return from Over There.
“There is a name, a magic name/That makes our young hearts
g1ow...” The twenties are roaring, the Lion is Waring; 1920 sees the
first fraternity convention held off the American continent when DKE meets
in Havana, courtesy of Cuban president Mario Garcia Menocal, a Cornell
Deke; and 1923 brings the first Canadian Convention, in Montreal.
The first DKE membership scrolls are authorized; the Initiation
fee is set at $10.00; Prohibition appears and, as usual, is ignored; and
although the fraternity movement flourishes across the land, DKE clings to
an expansion policy of “extreme conservatism.” (This is hardly an
overstatement, as only one chapter—Manitoba, in 1925—is chartered
between 1912 and 1932.) Nevertheless, the Fraternity is producing
prominent men: ambassadors, Cabinet members, Congressmen, governors,
industrialists, bankers, university presidents, publishers, a startling
number of bishops, and a host of other luminaries, including a promising
young composer from Phi named Cole Porter, who somehow never manages to
write a sweetheart song for DKE.
On go the years: Wall Street stubs its toe, and the DKE Convention of
1931, planned for London, goes instead to Atlantic City, NJ. Emerging
briefly from its conservative shell, the Fraternity charters both Alberta
and U.C.L.A. in 1932, then withdraws from the field.
The next chapter will be Northwestern in 1948. ‘Dutch’ Elder
replaces Jimmy Hawes, and subsequently takes on as his assistant a young
music major from LSU named William Mercer Henderson.
The first DKE Pledge Manual appears in 1939; the last Convention until
1947 is held in New Orleans in 1941.
"Sing softly of the loved ones gone before…” More
than 6,000 Dekes march off to World War II; more than 300 of them will not
return. The Fraternity waits out the duration, barely a third of its
chapters open at any one time. Peace returns and DKE rebuilds. Gone is the
reluctant expansion of the past: new chapters emerge, new growth, new
ideas. The Lion Trophy and DKE Achievement Awards are first presented in
1955. Ahead lies the campus unrest of the 1960s, another war, and
continued expansion. The Rampant Lion Foundation was born in 1982, giving
new hope and new opportunity for the betterment of our Fraternity.
President Ford, President Bush and Vice President Quayle lead our country
through great tribulation and to new glories.
As we celebrated the one hundred and fiftieth anniversary of DKE in 1994,
we reflected with pride on our past and those who have gone before and
charge all brothers to keep DKE strong for those who follow. The Objects
of Delta Kappa Epsilon are as relevant today as they were more than 150
We are proud of our fraternity and the more than
70,000 men who have become our brothers since DKE was founded in 1844.
Dekes come from every walk of life. Many have gone on to distinguish
themselves in politics, the arts, sciences, sports, education, and the
humanities. Five U.S. Presidents have been Dekes, the most of any
fraternity. The first man to reach the North Pole was a Deke and a Deke
has carried our flag to the moon. In every corner of the world you will
meet fellow Dekes, but whatever their background or station in life, all
are united by the shared experience of membership in DKE.